I Lie Here Buried is a self-assured follow-up from Backxwash, proving the Zambian-Canadian rapper to be worthy of audiences’ praise.
When God Has Nothing to Do with This Leave Him Out of It won Canada’s Polaris Prize in 2020, it caught much of the critical establishment off guard. Yet another example of the increasing gulf between mainstream music press and younger, culturally relevant audiences, most of these publications failed to cover the album or foresee its win over the works of more established artists like Caribou and U.S. Girls. But while critics scrambled to catch up, Backxwash, the Zambian-Canadian rapper behind God Has Nothing to Do With It, was already prepping her follow-up studio album, the newly released I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses.
Like her previous album, I Lie Here Buried confidently steers into the once-maligned rap rock genre, fusing black metal iconography and instrumentation with an eclectic approach to hip hop production that draws on horrorcore and contemporary trap alike. The resulting aesthetic template is an impressive one, something in between Rage Against the Machine and the Members Only collective, threaded together by strong pop melodies and punctuated with a snappy flow on the verge of erupting into full-on screams. What is most immediately felt in Backxwash’s music is fury, and the pain from which it springs, and indeed, I Lie Here Buried announces this as central to its thesis with intro track “PURPOSE OF PAIN,” a looped, manipulated sample describing the physiological necessity for pain. This track also characterizes Backxwash’s own authorial position on this album, her perspective shifting toward reflection and away from the violent immediacy of God Has Nothing to Do with This. This is still an album primarily contending with traumas and spiritual tumult, but one that finds the artist assessing them with new context and clarity. This comes through most clearly in Backxwash’s curt lyricism, favoring a directness in her descriptions befitting the candidness with which she relates personal narrative.
The songs that proceed “PURPOSE OF PAIN” form a story of self-destruction emerging into a cautious reconciliation. Two addiction narratives at either end of the album (“WAIL OF THE BANSHEE” and “NINE HELLS”) find pleasure rendered into numbness, an idea echoed in the Sad13-featuring “SONG OF SINNERS,” which reckons with corrupted faith; so many solutions to pain only proving to be exacerbants. Backxwash’s history and corresponding worldview are shaded in further on the title track (featuring screamo vocals from Black Dresses’ Ada Rook, who also engineered the album) and “TERROR PACKETS,” these songs articulating feelings of alienation and rejection explicitly tied to how she has been received as a Black, immigrant trans woman. I Lie Here Buried refuses the listener easy catharsis or assurance that Backxwash is content with her demons, but it hardly reflects a disempowered artist, instead, platforming a commanding voice learning to navigate the pain.
Published as part of Album Roundup — June 2021 | Part 2.